a land surveyor, an ironmonger, an auctioneer, a surgeon, a farmer, a pioneer, a handful of joiners, and an odd Todmorden Chartist or two...............


Calf Lee Farm

Despite the title of this article, the Scholfields originated in Walsden. They lived and farmed at CALFLEE, Scout Top, KNOWL TOP and Lodge Hall, all of which farms are situated on the eastern slopes of the Walsden valley. James was the eldest of the 2 sons of James and Susan Scholfield, born in 1748 at Calflee Farm in Walsden.
After his marriage to Mally Fielden, daughter of Samuel Fielden of BOTTOMLEY, he farmed at the family farm at Lodge Hall and it was there where their first 5 children were born. Their 6th and last child was born in 1788 in Todmorden. On his farm James made and sold stone sledges and manure, and turned his hand to woodwork. He started a small business doing joinery work in the neighbourhood.

Lodge Hall Farm, Walsden

Samuel Fielden, his wife's father, had turned his Bottomley estate over to her brother and had gone to live in a small cottage at Doghouse in Todmorden. This cottage was part of the WHITE HART estate, which Samuel owned. Samuel offered his son-in-law a piece of land on his estate on which to build a home for himself and his family. He was an old man by this time and maybe Mary, his only daughter, felt he needed looking after, so James built a new house and the family moved to Todmorden. This was 1786. James' own father had died in the January of that year, leaving his mother Susan at Calflee with her 3 spinster daughters.

One of this row of shops was James' joinery shop

James continued his work as a joiner from premises on North Street, being responsible for making the coffins for the pauper funerals. He became a respected member of the Todmorden community, rising to an elevated position in life. He was appointed as a church warden at St. Mary's, and also as the Land Surveyor for the township.

As part of his duties as Land Surveyor he made the plans and specifications for the new GAUXHOLME POORHOUSE in 1802, was involved in the alterations and repairs to St. Mary's in 1809, and in 1821 was elected to a committee to investigate the purchase and walling in of the new burial ground along with Thomas Ramsbottom, Edward Dearden and Samuel Fielden. Subsequent to this, a church rate was set by the Select Vestry to raise £300 for the purpose of fencing the new cemetery and for the erection of a Sacristy, which was also intended to be used as a Sunday School. James, being Church Warden at that time, was responsible for collecting the rate and it was a most unpopular duty.

His appointment as church warden would have caused dismay back at Walsden, where his brothers and their families were heavily involved in the Wesleyan Society and LANEBOTTOM SCHOOL AND CHAPEL in particular. His mother was the founder member of the Wesleyan Society in the area. His wife's family would also have disapproved as she was born into the Quaker faith, and it was a great sin for a member to marry outside the faith, especially in an established church as Mary did. However, her father, although a Quaker himself, apparently approved of her husband at the time he allowed them to build on his land, and he remembered her in his will.........just:


...I do give and bequeath to my Son Joshua all my wearing Apparel; and to my Sons Joshua and John, and my Daughter Mary, or Mally, wife of James Schofield, I do also give and bequeath All my Household Furniture, Bed and Bedding, equally to be divided amongst them, Share and Share alike...

James died in 1823 aged 75 years and is buried with Mary and their son James at St. Mary's. His gravestone is inscribed as follows:

Mally wife of James Scholfield of Todmorden died 19th March 1804 aged 58.

Also James their son who died at Bottomley November 18th. 1811 aged 37.

Also above named James, land surveyor of Todmorden,

died April 21st. 1823 aged 75.


James and Mally had 5 children who survived to adulthood: James, John, Martha, William and Abraham. Martha married Ambrose Brook, dying shortly afterwards during childbirth.


James Scholfield Jnr.(1774-1811)

James succeeded his father as a joiner in the same place on North Street. He was a cooper, married to a namesake of his mother, another Mary Fielden, this time of NORTH HOLLINGWORTH FARM. James died a young man aged just 37 at Bottomley, his mother's old home. His wife was left pregnant and with 7 other children under the age of 15. Despite this, they all survived and went their various ways in life. Her son James took to his father's trade, although he was only 11 when his father died. He did a full apprenticeship and became a master carpenter, cooper, and joiner with 2 employees at the family shop near the Black Swan on North Street in Todmorden. Mary herself took a house at Hallroyd in Langfield, where she lived first with her son Abraham and later with her son Samuel, working as a laundress. She died there in 1854.


James' oldest son, John, left Todmorden behind in 1818 when he was 21 years old to find a new life in Canada. He died in Ontario in 1866. The following is an extract from "The History of Welland County, Ontario, 1887."

"John Scholfield married Margaret, a daughter of Jacob Kilman, one of the early settlers of the county. John Scholfield's name is closely associated with the early history of Pelham, in which township he was for many years one of the most enterprising citizens."

John Scholfield (1776 - 1855)  

North Hollingworth

John was about 10 years old when his family moved to Todmorden but in 1796 he married a Walsden lass and he settled back in to farm life. He never returned to Todmorden to live, preferring the open spaces and bracing air of the hills. He farmed first at WATERSTALLS above Bottomley, then a spell at GENERAL WOOD, and then at North Hollingworth.
He had two wives and 12 children. His first wife, Betty Greenwood, gave him 4 children but she died giving birth to the fourth child, who survived. He married Betty Crossley within a short space of time and she gave him 8 more children. The second Betty died of debility in 1841 at North Hollingworth at the age of 60.
On the 8th March 1855 John went missing from his home. His body was found in the canal near Square Lock 3 days later. He was 78.

Square Lock

William Scholfield (1780 - 1848)  

William was an ironmonger by trade. He was affectionately known as Old Will the Ironmonger and was a prominent tradesman in Todmorden. He was a member of the SELECT VESTRY, the group of "Gentlemen, Clergy and principal inhabitants" who formed the unelected Local Council of the times. However, Will was no conservative. He was a radical, even a rebel, and was heavily involved in the Todmorden Chartist movement. He was a committee member of the Todmorden Political Union and was very active in the anti-poor law agitation and riots of 1838. He took active parts in Chartist meetings, risking arrest and imprisonment, if not transportation.

During his membership of the Select Vestry, he was prominent in the fight to segregate Todmorden from the Parish of Rochdale. During the 1830's, Todmorden was financially maintaining 2 churches, St. Mary's and Christ Church, and was also obliged to send money to the mother church in Rochdale. William, along with most of the rest of the inhabitants, thought this unreasonable. A meeting was convened in December 1840 at which William proposed that a petition, which was to be sent to the relevant authorities, should be presented to all ratepayers for signature. Those at the meeting who signed the petition were:

Joseph Cowell, Incumbent

John Crossley, Scaitcliffe

James Taylor, Todmorden hall

William Greenwood,Watty Place

James Greenwood, Harehill

John Buckley, Ridgefoot

William Eastwood, Todmorden

James Fielden, Dobroyd

H.G. Mitchell

James Fielden

Henry Buckley

John Ratcliffe

William Sagar

H. Heyworth M.D.

Thomas Thomas

William Scholfield

William was indeed in good company at the Select Vestry meetings. He did, however, have a very mischievous streak to his nature.


At one time he had the old smithy on Cheapside, once the home of John Shackleton, who had been an unpopular and ill-tempered old man. When John Shackleton died, Will took over the property. It was an eye-sore to both Will and his neighbours as John Shackleton had been less than particular in his habits. The old folk of the neighbourhood had thought that John had sold his soul to the devil, and when he died there were many rumours of ghosts about the place. It seems that Will encouraged this idea by causing strange noises from within the old building quite deliberately. Will re-built the property and raised its height an extra storey, which had the effect of making the very narrow old road along the side of the building extremely dark, becoming another source of annoyance to the neighbours.

In 1823 he operated his ironmongery business from premises in Church Street and after his father died, moved to the North Street shop, where he remained the rest of his life, never deviating from his trade in all his 68 years. Pots, spoons, knives, forks, pans and tin wares could be bought on any week day in the village from Will Scholfield. At that time, between the entrance to the White Hart Fold and the Black Swan on North Street, there were 3 shops, occupied by: John Roberts, a tailor, James Postlethwaite, another tailor, and William Scholfield.

Church Street 1860

Between the Black Swan and the railway viaduct, there were several businesses and houses, among them being the cooper's shop of Will's nephew, James Scholfield, Shadrach Sutcliffe's pie-shop, and Thomas Taylor's putting-out warehouse, with the dwelling-houses of Mr. Henry Buckley and Mrs. Scarr next to the railway arch.

North Street 1908

There was nothing on the opposite side of the road apart from the free running river until the Oddfellows built their hall in 1840 and with it, 22 cottages and 2 shops.

Will is buried at St. Mary's with his wife and some of his 12 children:

Hannah Daughter of William and Mary Scholfield of Todmorden

died October 1809 aged 5.

Also Cyrill their son died November 5th. 1815 aged 15 days.

Also Thomas their son died January 21 1819 aged 2.

Also Ann their daughter died October 22 1821 aged 9.

Also William their son died October 17th. 1838 aged 28.

Also above named William Scholfield died May 4th. 1848 aged 67.

Also Mary his wife died October 14th. 1849 in her 70th. Year.

Also James their son died January 7th. 1851 in his 48th. Year.

Will's eldest son, James, took over the Church Street business and opened a second shop on King Street where his son, William worked. After James' death in 1851, William junior and his widowed mother kept the business on King Street going, afterwards moving to Water Street.

King Street


Water Street 1906

In 1881 William junior was an ironmonger at 1, Water Street, living with his sister Susannah and her child.
One of William's sons decided at a young age that being a tradesman wasn't for him. He was Samuel, born in 1821. On the day of the 1841 census, at the tender age of 20, he was still living at home with his parents on North Street and is recorded as being "an apprentice surgeon". Perhaps a surgeon isn't so far removed from a joiner? By 1851 both his parents have died and Samuel is living on Water Street with his unmarried sister Susan and his widowed sister Elizabeth and her children. He is now a "Licentiate Apoth Hall General Practitioner".
Samuel later moved to 10, Patmos Cottage and lastly Roomfield House. He continued to serve as a General Practititoner until the day he died. On 21st February 1877, although feeling unwell, he visited his patients as normal. On returning to Roomfield House he was taken ill and died of apoplexy. He was 56.

Roomfield House 1907

Abraham Scholfield (born 1788)  

Abraham, otherwise known as "Little Hock", was the youngest of the 4 brothers and the only child of James and Mally to have been born after they moved to Todmorden. He has been described as a diminutive man with a big mouth and a loud voice. When his oldest brother, James, died at 37, he took over the joinery business on North Street until such time as his brother's son was able to run the business. He then moved to Roomfield Lane, working still as a joiner and cooper. Abraham must have decided to put his voice to good use for he became the town's auctioneer and appraiser, and also the town crier. In his spare time, he engraved the lettering on the grave stones at St. Mary's. He and his wife had 10 children before his wife died in 1829.

Abraham, being the auctioneer, would visit farms for sales of buildings and stock, at which a lot of people would gather to either bid or spectate. There was always an "outside bar" arranged by a local publican, and often a glass of gin or rum was offered free to anyone who made a bid. Abraham was frequently heard to boast that he could sell any old cow to anyone with that amount of liquor flowing, but collecting the payment was less easy!

His oldest child, James, served an apprenticeship as a cabinet maker with James Sutcliffe of the Lord Nelson Inn. He then set himself up in business as a master cabinet maker at Roomfield Lane next door to his father and siblings. James was also involved in the Chartist movement at the same time as his uncle Will the ironmonger, so much so that in 1841 he was nominated for a position on the Chartist General Council.

Abraham and James emigrated to North America sometime after 1841.


Thank you to Roger Birch for allowing the use of his photographs of old Todmorden